During the 1st week, we woke up each morning, walked half an hour to an orphanage and spent time loving on 40+ kids. The men hauled dirt and bricks up a hill so the local workers could finish building a new toilet and shower. We worked our butts off each day in the blazing sun. It wasn’t easy, but it was definately evident that we were helping. On day 4 of orphanage detail, a few of us began work on the pre-existing well. Because of the Cholera epidimic, they are scared to drink the water from it. Our plan is to install a pump and cover the well to block out the light. In theory, this should make the water drinkable because the bacteria cannot survive without light. We didn’t quite finish that part of the project, but I’m pretty sure we have plans to return.
Friday was Christmas Eve... This is my very first time away from home for Christmas. Let me first say. . . It was bittersweet. You don’t how much the climate effects you until you are jumping headfirst into a place where the winter months involve shorts, beaches and very little change in temperature. It was so strange to hear Christmas music in the 90 degree weather! It just wasn’t the same, but we still did our best. That night, the team made hot chocolate and watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” After the movie, I stayed up, into the wee hours of the morning, decorating the common room for Christmas morning with threaded popcorn and duct tape streamers. When everyone woke up, we listened to Christmas music and were suprized with bacon, eggs and pancakes for breakfast! MERRY CHRISTMAS HAITI!
So, all that brings me to the last 2 days. On Sunday morning we load up on top of a truck and ride an hour and a half into the heart of destruction. Port Au Prince looks like a scene from a war movie! Most of the buildings are completely destroyed and millions of people have been left homeless even a year after the quake. They have been forced to set up make shift tent cities in the parks and any available land. The smell as we drove into town was overwhelming to say the least! There is trash everywhere and people use the streetcorners and gutters to relieve themselves as mother nature makes her frequent calls. We finally get to our destination, a tent city in the middle of Port Au Prince. We’re told that this is the largest and most chaotic tent city in existence. 5 – 7 thousand people crammed into makeshift houses with only feet or inches separating each tattered tent. Human beings living like cattle...victims of circumstance.
The team climbs down from the top of our chariot into a crowd of curious locals. Everyone wants to hold your hand and ask your name. The fragmented english they know comes from programmed responses to the few white faces that pass through from time to time offering pocket change and donated t-shirts. We spend the afternoon building a stage and painting a sign for the crusade that has been scheduled to start that night. As the sun goes down, people gather in the square in hopes of finding a better tomorrow. Preachers from around the world share their hearts as the words are translated from the multitude. From atop the bootleg stage, the Holy Spirit gently moves accross a willing crowd and each heart present is given a message of hope in the midst of despair. Something became very clear to me that night. There is a difference between someone who is wrecked by poverty, struggling to make it from one meal to the next and someone who is broken to the core and struggling to live. A lot of people I have met in my travels were just living so that one day they could die. These people, however, are dying to live!
After the crusade, all 14 of us piled into our one designated tent to sleep like sardenes. The hours passed slowly through the night until the sun came up way too early the next morning. A new day has come but the same hopless people are still waiting to fight for our attention, and the same question lingers in the thick morning air... “Will this ever end?”